Cardinal John Henry Newman becomes a saint in ceremony at the Vatican

13 October 2019, 09:36

The ceremony for Cardinal John Henry Newman at the Vatican
The ceremony for Cardinal John Henry Newman at the Vatican. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

An English Cardinal who died in 1890 was canonised as a saint today in a service in the Vatican’s St Peter’s Square.

The ceremony was watched by Prince Charles who attended alone, taking a seat close to the altar as Pope Francis spoke.

Prince Charles last met the Pope in April 2017 at a gathering in Rome with the Duchess of Cornwall.

The canonisation of the influential 19th century figure has been hailed by Britain's ambassador to the Holy See as an important moment in the UK's relationship with the Vatican.

Prince Charles attends the service today
Prince Charles attends the service today. Picture: PA

Pope Francis declared the cardinal a saint in front of tens of thousands of pilgrims, the first English saint of the modern age.

He said the cardinal had left a "lasting legacy'" as an educator, and the Catholic community owed "an incalculable debt to his tireless work".

In an article for the website of the daily newspaper of the Vatican city state, L'Osservatore Romano, Charles said the way the theologian had stood up for his "convictions" - famously shocking Victorian society by converting to Catholicism - still resonated today in light of the persecution various groups and individuals faced because of their beliefs.

He added: "In the age when he lived, Newman stood for the life of the spirit against the forces that would debase human dignity and human destiny.

"In the age in which he attains sainthood, his example is needed more than ever - for the manner in which, at his best, he could advocate without accusation, could disagree without disrespect and, perhaps most of all, could see differences as places of encounter rather than exclusion."

Melissa Villalobos, who was the subject of the second miracle attributed to Cardinal Newman - which confirmed his status as a saint - said about the divine intervention: "God in his mercy and Cardinal Newman in his sweet humility granted my request, thanks to God."

Sally Axworthy, British ambassador to the Holy See, the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, has described him as a "giant" of the 19th century, whose poetry, sermons and books went beyond a religious audience and spoke to all people.

Ms Axworthy said earlier this week: "It's an important moment for the Catholic Church but also Holy See relations.

"It's the first British saint canonised in over 40 years and the first post-Reformation saint, and I think Cardinal Newman is important as he's someone who had a global impact."

The two people who have said they were cured after praying to him will be among the congregation, as will Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales.

A delegation from the Church of England, led by the Bishop of Portsmouth Christopher Foster, will also be present, as will a group of parliamentarians and other dignitaries from the UK.

The last UK individual to be made a saint was John Ogilvie, the 17th century Scottish martyr, canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1976.

London-born Cardinal Newman, who died in England in 1890 aged 89, had been hailed by former Pope Benedict XVI as a model for ecumenism.

An Anglican priest, he renounced an illustrious academic career at Oxford University to convert to Catholicism in 1845, convinced that the truth he sought could no longer be found in the Church of England.

The cardinal went on to found the Oratory at Birmingham in 1848 and through his writings spoke to many about the issues of faith, education and conscience.